MIDDLE-EAST MEZZE

Poems

by David Radavich

 


              Published by:       Plain View Press, P.O. Box 42255, Austin, TX 78704; (512) 440-7319; www.plainviewpress.net.

              Available from:     Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and other book outlets; now available on Kindle. 


 

This exciting new collection of poems explores the fascinating cultures of Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. Based on family connections and travel to the region, these lyric yet sometimes searing verses offer a mezze, or smorgasbord, of experiences in the Near East—from the enchantments of myth and legend to the all-too-real hardships of war and occupation. The poems in Middle-East Mezze move through suffering and pain toward tentative healing and reconciliation.

About the Author:

David Radavich's poetry is adventurous and wide-ranging. He is the author of Slain Species (Court Poetry, London), By the Way: Poems over the Years (Buttonwood, 1998), and Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2000). His plays have been performed across the U.S., including six Off-Off-Broadway productions, and in Europe. America Bound: An Epic for Our Time (Plain View, 2007) narrates U.S. history from World War II to the present from the perspective of everyday Americans, while Canonicals (Finishing Line, 2009) investigates “love’s hours.”

 

Radavich has published academic and informal essays on poetry and drama and has read his work in a variety of locations, including Canada, England, Egypt, Germany, Greece, and Iceland. He has been president of The Thomas Wolfe Society and is current president of the Charlotte Writers Club and poetry editor of Deus Loci. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Comment by Jean Grant:

"Reading David Radavich’s poems transported me to the Orient, to its 'dry and teeming sands' and feasts of 'dates and skewered meats.' He dedicates Middle-East Mezze to 'those who suffered and who dream' and does not shy away from the woe of the region. He captures the dignity and suffering of the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples. . . . Radavich’s poems drew me in with their easy-going, conversational tone. In this collection, every poem is alive with energy and drama.” -- Jean Grant, author of The Burning Veil: A Novel of Arabia

Comment by Mike Maggio:

"Middle-East Mezze is a sumptuous buffet of lyricism and imagery. Radavich takes us to Iraq, Palestine and Egypt and, during our journey, forces us to question how such rich ancient cultures could have fallen into such desperation. A poignant reminder of splendid heritage, these poems foreground the tragedy of war and injustice while at the same time delighting us with the wonderfully ornate complexities that make up the Middle East." -- Mike Maggio, author of deMOCKracy

Comment by Christian Knoeller:

Middle-East Mezze is a book of rare vision and ambition, given its sweeping geographical and historical scope. These poignant poems are finely honed, distilled to the essential. The progression of individual pieces, each complete in itself, seems inevitable, reflecting a keen sensitivity shaping the book as a whole. This collection positively bristles with arresting and unforgettable images, whether evoking the swirl of a bazaar in Egypt, descending ancient catacombs, or making the desolation of an arid landscape palpable. Ultimately, the work offers an unflinching act of witness--of conscience--breaking the silence about the tragic human toll of modern military conflict.” -- Christian Knoeller, author of Completing the Circle

 

Excerpt from Review by John Crane:

 

            “David Radavich's aptly named Middle-East Mezze contains a variety of poems: some evoke striking images and the impressions of a traveller; others provide meatier messages about war, in raw, uncompromising language. Sometimes, it takes a poet to show us the truth.
          Poems in the first section of the book, ‘Open Sesame,’ and the fourth, ‘Egypt,’ ‘Transport us now / to the Orient,/ where everything/ is dry and teeming with life.’ Radavich creates enlightening metaphors from the smell of a lemon, the sight of an hibiscus. Although the poems were obviously written over a period of years, the poem, ‘Bitter Lemons,’ could have been written this month, during the protests in Egypt.
          Poems in ‘Palestine,’ the third section of the book, express feelings about some particularly painful events in the land occupied by Israel's soldiers and its paramilitary, colonizing ‘settlers’: the massacre of worshipers at a Hebron mosque (‘each head bowed forward/ forever’); the killing of a girl's family at an outing on the beach (‘I didn't know her suffering./I've only seen pictures’); the assault on Gaza.

          The second section of the book, ‘Iraq,’ opens with the poem, ‘Curious War,’ about a war ‘with advertisements,’ a war in which ‘People smile as they are killing.’ The poem, ‘Forgetting,’ reminds me of General Colin Powell's response to a question about civilian casualties (‘It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in,’ he said).
          In simple, spare language, Radavich distills the essence of a thought. For example, with a single phrase, in ‘Casualties,’ he is able to provoke a guttural revulsion against war and its result: ‘tearing out/ hair/ of the angels.’
          In ‘On the Pillage of the Iraqi National Museum,’ Radavich declares, ‘God bless the archivist,/ the librarian who preserves/ what we have forgotten.’ God bless the poet, who hungers and thirsts after truth, and shows us what we never quite digested.”

 

 

Review by Ohioana:

 

            “I found these poems worth reading, more than once. They are thinking poems, designed to make the reader also think. I like their sparseness, the way each poem flows, and I like the word choices. ‘Curious War’ was one of my favorite poems in this collection. If you're considering buying this book, you can find ‘Curious War’ online and read it: it's representative of the volume. Another strong poem that I liked was ‘Juxtapositions.’ There is even, in such a serious volume, humor, as in ‘Judith and Me,’ which made me smile. Reading these poems has been a positive experience, one I will repeat.”

 

Excerpt of Review by Julia Hardie:

            David Radavich, in his latest book of poems, Middle-East Mezze, has created a work that begins in commentary on these twentieth-century places and ends in the present, in this unsettled and unsettling region of states and would-be states. The collection is organized around the concept of a mezze, a sampler of savory dishes, and the poems provide a banquet of images and meditations on the Middle East.

          Radavich wisely skirts the simplistic, luxuriating instead in the contradictions and impressions of the desert cultures.  ‘Arabian Night,’ the first poem in the section, ‘Open Sesame,’ ends in lines that suggest the fragmentary nature of any truth about this complicated region: ‘Some say this happened, / but who can / if it is true?’

          The poems range from a look at the aerial bombings from the perspective of the Iraqi citizens, ‘Airstrike,’ to the proud history of a place where ‘the alphabet / was first / scratched down / from ibises' tiny feet.’  These unexpected linkings of the personal and the political, of the Middle East and West, add dimension to the collection and tie these ideas together.

          Radavich has control of his language and images throughout . . . each carefully presented image stands out as fully as a date tree in the desert. A book dedicated to ‘those who suffered and who dream’ has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Mezze delivers.”—Deus Loci 

 

 

Excerpt of Review by M. Lee Alexander

 

            “David Radavich's aptly named collection of poems transports readers to the Orient in all its complexity. The poems take their inspiration from the wealth of Middle Eastern culture . . . . Yet they do not shy away from the more painful aspects of regional strife as experienced by many of its citizens today.

Radavich's work draws on elements that illustrate the dichotomous and paradoxical nature of the region, simultaneously dry and teeming with life, in both its multifaceted beauty and wartorn history. Thus readers can expect to discover the beauty of the Middle East and also its heartache . . .

          Radavich does not overwhelm readers with excess wordiness; he is a master of the short line, as brief stanzas hover on the page and draw the reader in with a minimalist touch that yet packs a powerful punch.

          Radavich's work is rich in original and at times unexpected use of similes. Even the author's use of imagery reflects the complex duality of the region that he seems committed to capture. . . . We see in the poems images of the desert, of sand and sun and bone and stone, but also of seashells and pearls and waves and glittering seas.

          David Radavich brings an international perspective to his art . . . he invites us to join him on the journey: ‘let us climb / on camels / and travel the vast / and always victorious sands.’”—Anglican Theological Review

 

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